Vitamin C and Sepsis: Surprising results from the LOVIT trial (2023 Update)

Vitamin C turned out to be associated with significant harm when used in patients with sepsis in the intensive care unit (ICU), the LOVIT trial found.

For patients receiving vasopressor therapy in the ICU, the endpoint of death or persistent organ dysfunction at day 28 was more common in those who had been randomized to IV vitamin C therapy instead of placebo (44.5% vs 38.5%, risk ratio [RR] 1.21, 95% CI 1.04-1.40), according to Francois Lamontagne, MD, of Universit√© de Sherbrooke in Quebec, and colleagues, writing in the New England Journal of Medicine.

The individual outcomes of mortality (35.4% vs 31.6%, respectively) and persistent organ dysfunction (9.1% vs 6.9%) both trended unfavorably for the vitamin C group but were not significantly different:

  • Mortality: RR 1.17 (95% CI 0.98-1.40)
  • Persistent organ dysfunction: RR 1.30 (95% CI 0.83-2.05)

And a secondary analysis of the primary outcome that adjusted for prespecified baseline characteristics was also not significant (RR 1.15, 95% CI 0.90-1.47).

Furthermore, vitamin C recipients were not at greater risk of tissue dysoxia, inflammation, or endothelial injury, leaving the investigators unable to determine the mechanism for vitamin C's potential harm, the group reported.

The study findings were also presented at the 2022 Critical Care Reviews meeting.

The researchers acknowledged that there may have been confounding in the study, given the lack of information on specific pathogens, antimicrobial therapy, and presence of acute respiratory distress syndrome in trial participants.

More data are anticipated from ongoing trials of vitamin C. Those include REMAP-CAP in the setting of pneumonia, LOVIT-COVID in hospitalized COVID patients, and a European study in sepsis complicated by acute respiratory distress syndrome.

Interest in IV vitamin C as a potential treatment for sepsis is rooted in the belief that its antioxidant properties might reduce tissue injury caused by oxidative stress.

The evidence for vitamin C's effectiveness in sepsis has not been strong, however, as shown by a meta-analysis. The 2017 paper that sparked interest in vitamin C in this setting has been criticized as potentially "too good to be true," and the underlying data have been called into question as well.

Meanwhile, sepsis remains a common cause of death even if treated early. It is responsible for over a third of all hospital deaths and kills up 11 million people worldwide each year, Lamontagne's group noted.

The phase III LOVIT trial was conducted in France, Canada, and New Zealand. Eligible patients were adults with sepsis who were receiving vasopressor therapy and had been in the ICU for no longer than 24 hours. All had proven or suspected infections as their main diagnosis. Excluded were patients with contraindications to vitamin C therapy, those receiving open-label vitamin C, and those with withdrawals or deaths expected within 48 hours.

From November 2018 to July 2021, investigators had 872 patients randomized 1:1 to vitamin C or placebo. The experimental group received a vitamin C bolus, whereas controls got matching dextrose or saline. Assigned treatments were administered over 30 to 60 minutes every 6 hours for up to 96 hours. All other treatments were performed at the discretion of the treatment team.

Mean age was 65 years and under 40% of patients were women. Baseline characteristics were similar between vitamin C and placebo groups, as was the use of co-interventions and life-sustaining therapies during the course of their ICU stays.

Lamontagne and colleagues cautioned that their study was conducted in high-income countries, and thus may not be generalizable to lower-income countries where the rate of sepsis can be much higher.

About the Author: James Lopilato is a staff writer for Medpage Today. He covers a variety of topics being explored in current medical science research.


2023 Update: World-Renowned Physician’s Landmark Research Validated by Medical Journal Following a Nearly Year-Long Investigation

After an extensive reevaluation, the CHEST Journal reaffirms Dr. Marik’s peer-reviewed publication supporting the use of intravenous Vitamin C to treat medical sepsis in the hospital.

The CHEST Journal, the preeminent peer-reviewed scientific journal of physicians who specialize in diseases of the chest, has affirmed its publication of the landmark research of Paul Marik, MD, that pioneered the use of intravenous Vitamin C to treat medical sepsis.

In March of 2022, baseless allegations from an unqualified source were publicly made on social media and to the CHEST Journal, claiming intentional statistical errors in the 2017 peer-reviewed study led by Dr. Marik titled “Hydrocortisone, Vitamin C, and Thiamine for the Treatment of Severe Sepsis and Septic Shock: A Retrospective Before-After Study.” After receiving the complaint, the CHEST Journal launched a thorough review of the study that lasted almost a year. This week Dr. Marik received a letter from the journal stating that the investigation found no errors in the methodology as cited by the allegations.

“From the beginning of this process, I have been confident that our research methods met the high standards for integrity that we as scientists and the high-impact journals require,” said Paul E. Marik, M.D., FCCM, FCCP, founding member of the Front Line COVID-19 Critical Care Alliance (FLCCC) and former Chief, Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine at Eastern Virginia Medical School. “We support questioning the results of any research, including our own, as it leads to a better understanding of the data and strengthens the integrity of the research. However, baseless accusations made unprofessionally have no place in scientific discourse.”

The journal’s response to Dr. Marik did cite two minor revisions that do not change the final outcome of the original published study, but simply make it clear that some of the patients selected for the control group were “nonconsecutive” given the nature of hospital logistics and that the 1.5 g every 6 h for 4 days was a “target” dose that might not have been reached in all patients due to clinical considerations.

“I welcome the two words changed by the journal as they make the description of our methodology clearer and have no impact on the research results,” said Marik. “However, this whole process was unnecessary as it raised unneeded concern about a life-saving treatment that we know is effective and used worldwide. I hope patients were not deprived of this vital treatment because of these false allegations.”

The World Health Organization estimates that in 2017 there were 11 million sepsis deaths worldwide, half of these deaths occurred among children, which accounted for approximately 20% of all global deaths.

A PDF of the press release can be found here:

A copy of the CHEST Journal’s findings can be found here:

The published study can be found here:

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